PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. - Carnival's newest ship, the Mardi Gras, set sail on Saturday evening for the first time ever.
It was a huge day for the cruise line industry and the port as business returns after being shut down for more than 17 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mardi Gras is the largest vessel in Carnival's fleet and took 4,000 passengers on the first paid cruise out of the port since March 2020.
On Saturday, it began year-round seven-day Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral with stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic and Nassau, Bahamas.
The ship left Port Canaveral after 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Its departure marks the restart of the cruise industry at the port, which saw its last ship set sail 16 months ago.
Several cruise lines have run test cruises out of Port Canaveral in anticipation of resuming sailing.
"Over the next two to three weeks, you're going to see a lot of activity of active sailings out of Port Canaveral. And that's what's got us excited right now," said Canaveral Port Authority CEO Captain John Murray.
The brand new ship has just about everything you can think of available to passengers, including a roller coaster.
The "BOLT" coaster will run along an 800-foot track at over 180 feet above the sea. The motorcycle-inspired vehicles are all electric, featuring a speedometer to clock your ride. Riders have a choice of a fast ride up to 40 miles per hour or a slower ride to enjoy the views at the top of the ship.
The news comes as the State of Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue a lawsuit over the CDC’s return-to-sail order.
Port Authority and Carnival hosted a "Back to Fun" ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday to welcome guests aboard.
"Mardi Gras has been five years in the making so to finally welcome guests on board to experience this one-of-a-kind ship is something that we’ve been looking forward to for a very long time," Carnival President Christine Duffy said. "Not only is Mardi Gras providing a truly unique vacation experience to our guests, it’s so gratifying to be able to play a role helping the local community by providing much-needed jobs and a boost to the economy."
Captain Giuseppe Giusa said, "Today was a truly emotional moment for our entire Mardi Gras team. Having the distinction as the flagship of Carnival Cruise Line is a great honor and our entire team is ready to provide our guests with the vacation they have been so patiently waiting for. We are ready to get back to fun!"
In addition to the roller coaster, the vessel also features 19 decks and 20 dining options, including restaurants by Chef Emeril Lagasse and Shaquille O’Neal. The Mardi Gras can hold more than 5,000 passengers and is the first ship in North America to run on eco-friendly liquefied natural gas.
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